Negro Leagues Baseball, A to Z
— Guest Submission by Philip A. Ross
A is for Andrew, Rube Foster’s first name.
He started the league that organized the first black game.
B is for Cool Papa Bell, the speedster of which you’ve heard.
Even on an intentional walk he could wind up on third.
C is for Oscar Charleston, he played centerfield then first base.
Wherever he played, he was always an ace.
D is for Leon Day, whose strong right arm could fire the ball.
His outstanding career got him elected to the Hall.
E is for Luke Easter, as a hitter he was elite.
He would hit blasts out of the park and onto the street.
F is for Willie Foster, whose left arm threw smoke.
It would have been easier for the batter to use a fork to drink Coke.
G is for Josh Gibson, he hit home runs prodigious.
When he got up to bat, the pitchers got religious.
H is for the Homestead Grays, a Pittsburgh team under Cumberland Posey.
Gus Greenlee’s Crawfords were their cross-town rivals. Relations weren’t always rosy.
I is for Monte Irvin, with the Newark Eagles he got his start playing ball.
He went to the “show” now he’s in the Hall.
J is for J.L. Wilkinson of the Monarchs, he was the president.
Kansas City was his home. There he was a resident.
K is for Henry Kimbro, a five tool player by trade.
On the field he made his mark in each game that he played.
L is for Buck Leonard, his first name was Walter.
This power hitting first baseman rarely did falter.
M is for Lefty Mathis, he had a pick off move that couldn’t be beat.
If you got to first, glue the base to your feet.
N is for all of the Negro Leagues, their seasons weren’t very long.
But they kept the fires burning ’til Jackie came along.
O is for Buck O’Neil, he played the game with grace and style.
In his heart and on his face, he always wore a smile.
P is for Spot Poles, in the outfield many he did rob.
A great all around player he was called the “black Ty Cobb.”
Q is for Quincy Trouppe, who was finely tuned on all gears.
He just felt he was born too soon, by twenty years.
R is for Double Day Radcliffe, pitcher and catcher supreme.
The only player anywhere to play both positions on all star teams.
S is for Satchel, Leroy Paige never got older.
Remember his words, “Don’t look over your shoulder.”
T is for the Taylor brothers: Ben, Candy Jim, Steel Arm Johnny and CI.
Their legacy and standard is still riding high.
U is for the Brooklyn Uniques, a foundation team from yesteryear.
We stand on their shoulders so let’s give them a cheer.
V is for Armando Vasquez, the outfielder who hit with power.
He could get up and slug the ball, any day, any hour.
W is for Smokey Joe Williams, a giant of a man on the mound.
When opponents saw him warm up, they wanted to turn around.
X marks the spot of the Negro League Museum in KC at 18th and Vine.
On your trip to see the Royals stop in you’ll have a great time.
Y is for Bill Yancey, he played second, third and shortstop.
He could pivot and throw and catch the short hop.
Z is for Jim Zapp, after the Navy he joined the Elite Giants of Baltimore.
This big hit slugger was hard to ignore.
So there’s the poem that scratches the surface.
I gave it some thought and a great deal of purpose.
With thanks to the players who played through the strife,
You made baseball better and enriched my life.
— Philip A. Ross is a negro leagues baseball historian and speaker. He is a retired New York City public school teacher.
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League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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